Filed: Saturday, 31st October 2009
By: Staff Writer
West Ham inexplicably threw away a lead against ten men for the second time in a matter of weeks.
As with the recent 2-2 draw with Fulham, Gianfranco Zola's team went into the break with both a goal and man advantage after Kenwyn Jones saw red for shoving Herita Ilunga.
However another insipid second half performance saw United pegged back by a late goal from former Hammer Kieran Richardson, who notched an equaliser with just under quarter-of-an-hour remaining.
Despite making the brighter start Sunderland were unable to capitalise and it was West Ham that took the lead on the half hour mark. Some clever play by Jack Collison allowed Guillermo Franco to make a surging run into the box and the Welsh midfielder's delivery was perfectly timed for the Mexican international to steal in and register his first goal in claret and blue.
Six minutes later and the Hammers doubled their lead when Carlton Cole fired home from the edge of the penalty box. Once again Collison was instrumental for it was he who sprung the offside trap before releasing Cole who finished with some aplomb.
But West Ham's two-goal advantage was to be short-lived, for with 39 minutes on the clock the home side pulled one back through Andy Reid. Steed Malbranque bought a free-kick by going to ground on the edge of the penalty box despite not having been touched by anyone in claret and blue - something that earned a furious Radoslav Kovac a yellow card for his protestations - and Reid chipped the resulting free kick into the corner of Rob Green's net.
With an exciting first half drawing to a close Sunderland were reduced to ten men when striker Kemwyn Jones received his marching orders for shoving Herita Ilunga in the face moments after the two had tangled close to the half way line. Although Jones should clearly have gone - the rule with regard to raising your hands to an opponent is unequivocally clear - Ilunga hardly covered himself in glory by dropping to the ground theatrically (which duly earned him a caution for simulation). A word please, Mr Zola.
Hopes of West Ham extending their lead further after the break were soon distinguished when it became clear that United were content to sit back and soak up the pressure from the ten men of Sunderland. But it was a plan that was to be foiled; the only surprise was that it took the Black Cats so long to equalise having peppered Rob Green's goal with a series of shots.
With 76 minutes on the clock Darren Bent - ineffective up to that point - crossed towards the back post. His cross took a wicked deflection and looped over the head of a rather-too-static Green only to fall at the feet of Richardson, who had lost marker Jon Spector, who gleefully accepted the chance to make it 2-2.
At that point West Ham finally arose from their second half slumber and, bouyed by the introduction of Alessandro Diamanti and Zavon Hinnes, took the game to their opponents. Zola's side fashioned no less than five good chances in the final ten minutes - including a Hines effort that needed the intervention of another former Hammer, George McCartney, on the goal line to prevent the Hammers from once agin taking the lead - but ultimately failed to regain the lead.
To add insult to injury, Radoslav Kovac - only playing as a result of Scott Parker's suspension - received his marching orders in the closing moments for an apparent foul on Darren Bent. Quite how Kovac could have deliberately fouled Bent is a mystery given that he was looking in the opposite direction to where Bent arrived for the tackle - but then many of Andre Marriner's decisions, both today and throughout the season, have been questionable.
Last week there was much praise for Zola after his changes inspired the second half comeback against Arsenal - and indeed, his side become only the second (following Chelsea) to avoid defeat at the SoL.
But this week, serious questions must be asked as to why, once again, his side failed to maintain a lead against ten men - and instead of pressing for further goals or at the very least, trying to maintain possession, sat back in hope of holding on to their narrow advantage - something that had been a major problem all season and only exacerbated by the loss of former captain Lucas Neill and James Collins.
We'll have a full match report for you shortly.
Sunderland 2 West Ham Utd 2: match facts
West Ham Utd: Green, Spector, Tomkins, Upson, Ilunga, Behrami (Diamanti 67), Parker, Noble, Collison, Franco (Hines 72), Cole.
Subs not used: Kurucz, Faubert, Gabbidon, Jimenez, Stanislas.
Goals: Franco (30), Cole (36).
Booked: Kovac (37), Ilunga (45), Cole (60).
Sent off: Kovac (87).
Sunderland: Gordon, Turner, Da Silva, Nosworthy, Henderson, Richardson, Cana, Malbranque, Reid, Jones, Bent.
Subs not used: Fulop, Ferdinand, Bardsley, McCartney, Healy, Meyler, Murphy.
Goals: Reid (39), Richardson (76).
Booked: Cana (11), Bent (25), Turner (40).
Sent off: Jones (45).
Referee: Andre Marriner (4/10).
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